VESA & FRIENDS ∗
Sunday 19 July 4 pm
Warkworth Town Hall

Samuel Jacobs - Horn 1
Shadley van Wyk - Horn 2
Vesa-Matti Leppänen - Violin
Andrew Thomson - Violin and Viola
Nicholas Hancox - Viola
Andrew Joyce - Cello

PROGRAMME

Beethoven - String Trio in E-flat, op 3
Mozart - Horn Quintet in E-flat major, K 407
Beethoven - Sextet in E-flat major, op 81b

 

Born and raised in Finland, Vesa-Matti Leppänen moved to New Zealand in 2000. For well over a decade he has been Concertmaster of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and has earned international recognition as a chamber musician, teacher, adjudicator and soloist. Vesa-Matti Leppänen has gathered an impressive group of friends, including principal players from the NZSO, to perform a programme that shines a light on the sensational horn playing of Samuel Jacobs. After several years playing principal horn in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Samuel returned to New Zealand in 2017 to take up a permanent position with our national orchestra.

The ensemble will perform the most cherished piece of chamber music for horn, Mozart’s Quintet, and will be joined by a second horn player from the NZSO to play a rarely performed work, Beethoven’s Sextet in E-flat Major. To mark the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, the group will also perform his String Trio in E flat as part of their programme.

Ludwig von Beethoven (1770–1827)

String Trio in E-flat, op 3
Allegro con brio
Andante
Menuetto. Allegretto; Trio
Adagio
Menuetto. Moderato; Trio
Allegro

In 1793, the 22-year-old Beethoven, who had been living in Vienna since November 1792, inscribed the Stammbuch (autograph album) of a Viennese merchant with the words: ‘I am not wicked—hot blood is not my fault—my crime is that I am young … Even though wildly surging emotions may betray my heart, yet my heart is good.’ This quotation from Friedrich Schiller’s play Don Carlos appears to have been a favourite of Beethoven, capturing his awareness of his own volatile temperament and his often-stated desire to be better, as a composer, a musician, and as a human.

While it’s specious to read Beethoven’s compositions as statements about his personality, it is often impossible to avoid doing so: many of Beethoven’s early works lend themselves to interpretation as manifestations of his own aspirations. The Trio in E-flat major is just such a piece. Composed in 1794 or 1795, and published by Artaria in 1796, the Trio exudes confidence and humour alongside moments of ecstatic profundity. A possible model for Beethoven’s Trio exists in a string trio by Mozart, his K 563 Divertimento (1788) that Artaria had published posthumously in 1792. The two works share a key, a six-movement structure, and a pair of minuets that frame the works’ slow movements.

Beethoven’s Trio opens with an ebullient syncopated statement from the violin and viola, followed by a more lyrical idea. All three instruments receive opportunities for solo utterances pulling away from each other before finding moments of confluence. The Andante moves to a serene B flat major, and its intertwining voices demonstrate Beethoven’s increased confidence with intricate counterpoint. Beethoven’s humour emerges in the Menuettos: in the first Menuetto he often leaves the first beat in the bar empty—a problem in a dance where downbeats are important. The second Menuetto is rustic, especially in its trio section when the violin plays a virtuosic folkish melody over a drone accompaniment. In the extrovert Allegro finale volatile emotions surge as the instruments vie for their share of the melody.
Duration: 42 minutes
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)

Horn Quintet in E-flat, K 407
[Allegro]
Andante
Allegro

The horn virtuoso Joseph Leutgeb (who typically spelled his name ‘Leitgeb’) was born in Neulerchenfeld—now Vienna’s 16th District, but then part of Lower Austria—on 6 October 1732. He likely studied violin with his father Leopold before taking up the horn. Leutgeb’s performing career probably began in Vienna, and he would travel widely in Europe as an orchestral and solo musician. Leutgeb was appointed to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg’s musical establishment in 1763, where he came into contact with the Mozart family, the start of a long friendship that would be of great benefit to the development of the horn repertory.

When Leutgeb toured, his mastery of the natural (i.e. valveless) horn astounded audiences and critics alike. After performing in Paris, a critic writing in the Mercure de France remarked especially on Leutgeb’s lyrical style of playing, noting that he could ‘sing an adagio as perfectly as the most mellow, interesting, and accurate voice.’ Leutgeb’s outstanding hand-stopping facility (using his hand, inside the bell of the horn, to change pitch) enabled him to play smoothly and presumably with more consistency of tone than his peers. His lyrical sound later came to the fore in the concerti and chamber music Mozart would compose for Leutgeb when both men were living in Vienna in the 1780s.

Mozart’s Quintet K 407 dates from late 1782. Rather than adding the horn to a conventional string quartet of two violins, viola, and cello, Mozart scored the quintet for horn, violin, two violas, and cello: this configuration emphasises darker and richer middle voices. Although Mozart distributed material even-handedly between the five instruments, the Quintet seems sometimes reminiscent of a concerto, a tendency particularly evident in the first movement. At other times, an operatic quality reveals itself, especially when hints of Mozart’s opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail (premiered in July 1782) materialise in the Andante. The rollicking finale contains extrovert ‘hunting horn’ figurations juxtaposed with darker moments when the horn sings in dialogue with the lower strings.
Duration: 17 minutes
Ludwig von Beethoven

Sextet for two horns and string quartet in E-flat, op 81b
Allegro con brio
Adagio
Rondo. Allegro

Beethoven’s Sextet in E-flat major probably dates from 1795. During his early years in Vienna, Beethoven composed in various smaller-scale genres, producing songs, sets of variations, and even some dances for specific occasions. By 1794 he felt confident to tackle piano sonatas and piano trios, meanwhile revising extensively his first two Piano Concertos for public. However, while Beethoven’s op 1 Piano Trios and his op 2 Piano Sonatas were published in 1795 and 1796, the Sextet in E-flat would not be published until 1810, by Nikolaus Simrock in Beethoven’s hometown of Bonn.

The long delay between the composition and publication of the op 81b Sextet and the op 71 Sextet for clarinets, horns, and bassoons, is curious: several of Beethoven’s other early chamber pieces for woodwinds were published almost immediately, by Moll of Vienna. Beethoven’s ambivalent remarks to Breitkopf & Härtel who published op 71 in 1810 may offer a partial explanation: he wrote that it was ‘only of my early works … All that can be said about it is that it was written by a composer who has produced at any rate a few better works—yet some people think that works of that type are best.’ Perhaps it was only in 1810, after having ‘proven’ himself as a composer of sonatas, string quartets, and symphonies, that Beethoven felt that the publication of his Sextets would not harm his reputation.

In this Sextet the horns play a full melodic role, and Beethoven integrated them into dialogues with each of the string instruments. In the opening Allegro con brio the mood is stately, capturing the spaciousness which would come to characterise many of Beethoven’s compositions in E-flat major. After the liveliness of the first movement, the hymn-like harmonic riches of the Adagio have a mesmerizing quality as the horns and strings intertwine in sinuous, chromatic lines. Beethoven then united the inside and outside worlds in the Rondo finale: the aristocratic intimacy of the string quartet contrasts with the horns’ hunting calls, evoking the mountains and forests so symbolic of German Romanticism.
Duration: 17 minutes

 

 

 

This concert is presented in association with Chamber Music New Zealand. The CMNZ Regional Series is supported by the Deane Endowment Trust Artist Development Fund. For more information visit http://www.chambermusic.co.nz